Wednesday, May 8, 2013

[Throwback Thursday] Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d city Review

It’s almost predictable at this point. Once a decade Hip-Hop fans are graced with the new ‘King’ of Rap. In the 80’s it was Rakim with “Paid In Full”, the first rapper to introduce multisyllabic rhyming in his songs. In the 90’s it was Nas, who introduced the world to street life with “Illmatic”, widely regarded as the greatest Hip-Hop album ever. And in the 00’s it was Kanye West, who pushed Hip-Hop to the forefront of Music by making it radio friendly. But this decade has yet to see a leader, until now.
Compton MC Kendrick Lamar is that leader. Lamar’s hype has been building ever since he released “Overly Dedicated” in 2010. His masterful 2011 release, “Section.80” and his numerous guest verses in 2012 sent the hype train into overload for his major label debut “good kid, m.A.A.d city,” The most anticipated Hip-Hop release of the year. Many believed Kendrick would succumb to all the pressure, and even more declared him the savior of Rap. I don’t regret saying that not only has Kendrick reached the insurmountable hype, he, in some ways, surpassed it.
“good kid, m.A.A.d city” is not your typical rap album. The subtitle that Kendrick added is “A short film: By Kendrick Lamar” and boy, does that ring true. Every one of the 12 songs placed on this album helps form the bigger picture, the story of Kendrick’s youth growing up in Compton. The drugs, violence, crime, and mayhem that run rampant through his ‘m.A.A.d city’ and the way he, the ‘good kid’ sees it. The story, just like a crime drama, takes twists and turns through the use of skits. I would go into details about the story, but it’s better you experience it for yourself.
 The opening track, “Sherane a.k.a. Master Splinter’s Daughter,” seems to start almost mid-sentence with Kendrick telling the story of how he met this girl who would eventually be the downfall of him. The vivid imagery takes you on a ride, literally speaking as Kendrick for most of the album is driving in his mothers van. The song, the album, begins with a prayer. Then what can only be described as a haunting beat, with a dark baseline protrudes from the depths of the soundscape.

“Backseat Freestyle,” the definitive banger on the album, is a loud, ferocious song rapped by Kendrick in his young, ignorant days. The song dives into Kendrick’s previous rapping life as K.Dot, the foul-mouthed rapper who spits about glamorous things he doesn’t have. This song will surely be played at top volume whilst driving around campus. The next track, “The Art Of Peer Pressure” is storytelling at its finest. With a beautiful intro describing Kendrick’s wrongful actions with his homies, the beat drops (No, not in a dubstep way) about a minute in to something much more sinister. What ensues is a night of escapades with the homies smoking, drinking, fighting gang members, and robbing houses. All of this done against Kendrick’s internal self, but done exclusively out of peer pressure, wanting to fit in with the homies.
“Poetic Justice” featuring Drake is your typical Hip-Hop love song, beautifully crafted. After this, and especially after the skit following it, is “good kid” & “m.A.A.d city” the 2 title tracks placed back-to-back, one detailing Kendrick the good kid and the other exposes the mad city with which he lives in. In the former Kendrick uses his lyrical prowess to compare gang violence with police brutality, using the colors red and blue as a similarity. The latter, being a 2-part song, which describes drug life in Compton.
Easily the most emotional rap song of the year, “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” has to be heard, whether you’re a hip-hop fan or not. The song, clocking in at an astronomical 12 minutes, is Kendrick at his best. The first half is 3 separate verses from 3 different perspectives, all speaking to Kendrick about their lives. The second half of the song is much more aggressive, a stark contrast to the first. With the addition of the story this song, and the many others, takes on added meaning.

One facet of these songs that I omitted was the lyrical content, and fans of Kendrick Lamar know why. His verses, flow and creativity are as close as Hip-Hop has gotten to perfection. The complexity of his lyrics and flow performed on these songs are to die for. A prime example is the first half of “m.A.A.d city” where Kendrick spazzes on a hype beat about the violence his childhood endured, hitting every note on point. Meanwhile, the production, not only on this track, but every one is top-notch. The diversity portrayed on the album through the use of beats, from DJ Dahi’s “Money Trees” to T-Minus’ “Swimming Pools” is astounding. Never before has a single album sound so different and yet so alike at the same time, a nod to its incredible storytelling.

The album can’t be without criticisms though. Tracks “Real” & “Compton,” the final 2 on the album sadly don’t compete with the previous 10. They close out the album very nicely but leave little to be desired in the way of musical sound, as compared to the rest of the album. Still, on your typical Hip-Hop album these 2 songs would be prime for the picking. My only other critique is that, while the skits are phenomenal, they sometimes go on for too long. For instance in “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” the final 2 minutes is devoted to a skit, and this length, while not as dramatic, happens often during the album.

Still, these critiques are hardly anything to scoff at. This debut is a masterpiece. The album will be considered Hip-Hop Album of 2012 by years-end, and will likely be considered a classic years down the road. “good kid, m.A.A.d city” is a triumph in the Hip-Hop community and one thing’s for sure: Kendrick Lamar is the new leader.


  1. Content: 5/5
    Guest Spots: 4.5/5
    Lyrics: 5/5
    MC: 5/5
    Production: 4/5

  2. This one too. Pretty much exactly agree haha